There are almost 20,000 searches each month for the phrase “morning routine”.
Do a search for the keyword.
You will find one blog post after the other offering recommendations for habits to include in your morning routine. There are thousands of pages featuring morning habits of a variety of individuals too.
The interest in the subject is not surprising because a bulletproof morning routine makes sure we are closer to our goals.
Your only path to success is through a continuum of mundane, unsexy, unexciting, and sometimes difficult daily disciplines compounded over time.
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The Number One Morning Routine Mistake
If you are reading an article about morning routines, I’m guessing you’ve searched for the morning routines of celebrities, influencers, and personal development gurus.
Using the inspiration from their morning routines to craft your own is nice, but it’s not wise to follow everything blindly.
We all have different lifestyles and boundaries.
In this essay, I will show you how to build your own bulletproof morning routine.
Identify Your Limits
To identify my own limits for morning routine activities, I start with the two biggest blocks on my calendar – working hours and sleep time. I block them out on my calendar.
Next, I create calendar events for all the additional necessary activities.
For example, how much commute time do I need? Do I have to accommodate my partner’s schedule? Are there errands I need to run at a fixed cadence?
List Down the Activities You Need
Morning routine activities fall into a few buckets. Each contributes to a different aspect of our overall well-being.
Avoid having two or more activities from the same bucket, especially if you don’t have a lot of time in the morning.
Strive Towards Your Goals
What’s important for you right now? Do you want to get fitter? Are you trying to finish a book? An activity driving you towards the goal deserves a slot in your morning routine.
For example, if you want to become a better writer, you can allocate an hour as part of your morning routine to write.
Move Your Body
Exercising your body, regardless of how intense it is, gets your heart pumping and blood to circulate. It lifts your mood and energy levels, both critical components to kickstart and take on the day.
The simplest gratitude practice is to write down three parts of your life that you’re grateful for right now. It can be a conversation you had, a moment you enjoyed, or a family member. From time to time, I will write down how grateful I am for having a healthy body or a supportive social circle.
Another way to incorporate gratitude into your morning routine is to do a guided gratitude meditation. You can find these guided meditations for free on YouTube or through popular meditation apps like Calm and Omvana (Disclosure: I work for Mindvalley, the company behind Omvana).
Take advantage of your clear morning mind. Incorporate an activity aimed at improving your intellect. Read a book, revisit your notes, or review your personal learning plan.
Plan for the Day Ahead
Take a hard look at the day before taking it on.
Be in control of your schedule and how your day will go. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll get overwhelmed by petty requests and distractions. Your entire day will go to waste.
Ask yourself these questions when you are planning:
What is the most important task to complete today?
What would make today great?
Are there unnecessary meetings on my calendar to say no to?
Be reasonable. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.
A morning routine will not last if you introduce too many new elements.
If you never had a habit of working out, your subconscious mind will tell you getting out of a comfortable bed to run on a treadmill is a punishment you should avoid.
The best way to build your morning routine is by stacking your habits.
Habit stacking, popularized by James Clear through his book, Atomic Habits, is all about linking a habit you’re trying to build with an existing habit.
It works because we’ve programmed our brains to perform our current habits without thinking about it.
Here are some examples of habit stacking:
After I wake up (existing habit), I will make my bed (new habit).
After brushing my teeth in the morning (existing habit), I will meditate for 10 minutes (new habit).
After making a cup of coffee (existing habit), I will write three things I’m grateful for into my journal (new habit).
If you want to add multiple habits into your morning routine, start with the easiest. Move on to the next only when the first one is integrated into your routine.
Schedule Everything onto Your Calendar
Every single component of your morning routine must be on your calendar. Be as detailed as possible with the event name and time.
By doing so, you know what you need to do at different times in the morning. There is no need to ponder.
Having it on your calendar reminds you not to sacrifice any part of it for calls, meetings, or other activities.
On your calendar, allocate a buffer of 5 to 10 minutes to the start and end of every activity. You might have a slower pace on some days. An unforeseen errand might pop up. The buffers take care of these scenarios.
Having these buffers gives you the space to enjoy your routine, instead of rushing through it and making your morning stressful.
A problem you will encounter is not having enough time in your current schedule for everything you want to do as part of a morning routine.
To solve this, you need to make sacrifices. The degree varies among different individuals, and they include:
Adjusting your sleep hours
Turning a morning activity into an evening activity
Alternating two sets of morning routines
Dropping an activity altogether
If you live with a partner, have a discussion to see how your morning routine can complement their schedule. A supportive partner who is well-aware of your morning routine will help you stick with it.
Optimize, Optimize, Optimize
It is close to impossible to get your morning routine right the first time.
Your time estimates will likely be wrong. You might feel it’s better to move some of your activities to another time of the day. The entire sequence of your routine could be off.
Don’t give up. Like how you adopt one new habit at a time, you should take small steps to tweak your morning routine to your liking.
The worst thing to do is to drop the entire routine altogether.
Find Someone to Keep You Accountable
It is difficult to rely on just your willpower to stick to a morning routine.
Find someone to hold you accountable. It can be your partner, a friend, or a coworker who is also trying to establish a morning routine.
Hire a coach using websites like Coach.me if you can afford it. The coach will be checking in on your progress daily, providing the external accountability you need to stick to a morning routine.
A Quick Summary of My Morning Routine
I’ve included my morning routine here as an example.
4:15am – 4:30am: Wake up and wash up.
4:30am – 5:00am: Meditate for 15 to 20 minutes. I use Oak.
5:00am – 6:00am: Prepare my green smoothie and lunch. I only drink the smoothie after my workout at the gym.
8:00am – 8:30am: Journal. I start with a quick gratitude exercise, followed by dumping all the thoughts in my head into the journal.
8:30am – 9:30am: My daily writing session starts.
9:30am – 9:45am: Commute to work. Drink my green smoothie and take my supplements.
9:45am – 10:00am: List down my most important tasks and plan for the day ahead.
10:00am: Workday commences.
I stick to my morning routine every day.
If I cannot stick to it due to an unforeseen reason, I will adapt and make changes on the go.
For example, since the start of the lockdown caused by the new coronavirus (COVID-19), I had to adjust my morning routine because I can no longer go to the gym for workouts, sauna sessions, and journaling practices.
Not being able to go out in the morning led to a lack of creative energy. The energy only grows throughout the day as I interact with my coworkers (via conference calls) and the information I consume. Noticing this change, I moved my writing to the evening.
Establish Your Own Bulletproof Morning Routine
With the tips above, I hope you have everything you need to craft your own bulletproof morning routine.
Coming up with the morning routine is only the first step. To reap the benefits, you need to treat it like the most important ritual and stick to it every single day.